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Cotton gets life without parole

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Dustin Earl Cotton will serve life in prison without parole after he was sentenced under the state’s recidivist statute Tuesday on charges stemming from a January 2017 armed robbery at a gas station.

The 27-year-old had five prior felony convictions — all in Floyd County — before this case, Assistant District Attorney John McClellan said in Floyd County Superior Court. The most recent came in October 2017 when he was sentenced to 10 years on escape charges, which he pled guilty to, for slipping his leg cuffs and running from the courthouse earlier last year. The daylong hunt ended the night of May 8 when law enforcement officials pulled him out of the Etowah River around 10 p.m.

Judge Billy Sparks sentenced Cotton to life on an armed robbery charge, and the recidivist statute does not allow for the option of parole — essentially making his sentence life without parole. He was also found guilty on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, hijacking a vehicle, as well as theft and stalking charges.

“His past might have caught up with him a little bit,” said Assistant Floyd County Public Defender Jonathan Speiser.

According to McClellan:

Cotton followed a nurse who worked at a nearby nursing home to a Marathon gas station at 2918 Martha Berry Highway on Jan. 30, 2017.

“He got out and put a gun to her head and said ‘don’t scream or I’ll shoot you,’” McClellan said during the trial last month.

While holding a .32-caliber revolver to her head, Cotton tried to get her into her 2002 Dodge Ram. When he could not get her inside, he fled in the truck, prompting a police chase that eventually ended in Adairsville.

“This is a very serious crime,” McClellan said Tuesday. “This could have been deadly for a lot of people involved.”

If the robbery would have been in the sight of the store clerk, a confrontation or possibly a shooting could have taken place, McClellan said.

Cotton also hit over 90 mph during the chase, running a red light and speeding through work zones, while endangering others, McClellan continued.

In an impact statement, which was read into the record, the victim claims the incident has left her with paranoia, which arises as she leaves work and she looks around her, eyeing cars behind her that could be following her.

Sparks also ordered Cotton to pay $3,881 in restitution to his victim. Cotton blew out the engine during the chase. However, the judge admitted he did not know how Cotton would pay this amount back while in prison.